We live in a time when high-capacity, semi-auto rifles are garnering the lion's share of the long-gun industry spotlight. It's safe to say that in many cases black is the new brown because stocks made of modern polymers are supplanting the handsome hardwoods favored in the past. But amidst all of the Picatinny rails, 30-round magazines and collapsible six-position stocks, a small but prolific American manufacturer, Henry Repeating Arms Co., is keeping the tradition of the lever-action rifle alive. One of its popular award-winning models is the Golden Boy rimfire.
To be clear from the start, this manufacturer is not the original maker of Henry rifles, but a relatively new company with facilities in Bayonne, N.J., and Rice Lake, Wis. The rifles the company provides should be thought of as look-alikes, not replicas, of the original Henry lever-action design. The first of the original Henry rifles, developed by Benjamin Tyler Henry and patented in 1860, were top-ejecting .44 caliber rimfires with brass receivers that loaded at the breech. The Golden Boy is a side-ejecting lever gun chambered for modern small-caliber rimfire rounds (.22 Long Rifle, .22 Mag, .17 HMR) with an alloy receiver and a loading port located at the muzzle end of the tubular magazine. They look much like the original but are a modern take on the concept. However, the updates to the rifle certainly do not take away from its sleek profile and reliable operation.
The Golden Boy makes a great first impression. The fit and finish from one end to the other exhibit top-notch craftsmanship. Its classic lines and high-polish receiver give it the appearance of an Old West show piece instead of an up-to-date rimfire. The Model H004M .22 Mag. version features a 20.5-inch, blued-steel octagonal barrel. The 12-round magazine tube, hammer, trigger and lever loop are also constructed of blued steel.
The barrel band and the receiver cover are made of Brasslite, which is a durable, proprietary, brass-plated alloy treated with a clear coating to preserve its lustrous shine. The interior portion of the receiver, which supports the barrel, is an alloy casting fitted with a Brasslite base plate to match the receiver cover. The satin-finished stocks are shaped from American Walnut and the straight-grip shoulder stock is capped off with a solid brass buttplate.
The sighting system of the Golden Boy consists of a dovetailed brass-bead front sight and an adjustable white diamond Buckhorn rear sight. Loosening a mounting screw in the rear sight allows it to be drifted to the right or left for windage and a toothed elevator plate is moved forward or back for elevation changes. The external safety feature of this rifle is the hammer's half-cock position, which locks the trigger until the hammer is fully cocked by the shooter’s thumb or by cycling the lever.
Since 2011, Golden Boy rifles have been drilled and tapped at the factory to accept Henry's GB-CSM cantilever scope mount. Purchased as an accessory, the mount ships with easy to follow directions for removing the rifle's factory rear sight and attaching the GB-CSM to the top of barrel. It's a simple installation process that only takes a few minutes to accomplish for use with an optic. Additional upgrades for this rifle are available from Henry, including hammer extensions, over-size lever loops and personalized engraved receiver covers.
At the shooting range, the Golden Boy showed off its grit-free, smooth action, which made this lever gun a real pleasure to work. The rifle has an adult-sized profile with an unloaded weight of 6 pounds, 12 ounces and a 14-inch length of pull (LOP). The trigger is just over 1-inch long with a grooved surface and gentle curvature that leaves plenty of room for little and large fingers alike. It was smooth and clean, requiring 3 pounds, 10 ounces of trigger pull to fire with 0.2 inches of travel after the break.
The rifle demonstrated excellent handling and balance during informal standing shots fired at 25 yards with iron sights. The forward weight of the barrel stabilized the rifle nicely, making it easy to form tight groups on paper at this range. The rifle was fed a variety of .22 Mag. loads that include full-metal-jacket, hollow-point and polymer-tipped rounds. All of the ammunition cycled and fired flawlessly with no malfunctions of any kind. Shooters new to lever guns need to be aware that user-induced malfunctions can occur if the lever is not fully cycled (all the way open, all the way closed) when chambering a fresh round.
For formal accuracy testing from a benchrest, the rear iron sight was removed and a Henry cantilever scope base was installed. With the mount in place, an Alpen Optics Kodiak 3-9x40 scope was attached using Leupold QRW Low Rings (49853). The Kodiak provided a clear, bright view through the wide-angle, 40 mm objective and was quickly sighted in at 50 yards with just a few shots.
Firing five, five-shot groups, the Golden Boy yielded the best single 50-yard group of 0.87 inches using Hornady 25-grain polymer-tipped NTX rounds. This load kept every group under an inch with a five-group average of 0.91 inches. Federal Champion 40-grain full-metal-jackets averaged 1.03 inches, followed by Winchester Super X 28-grain tin hollow points at 1.11 inches.
If you have not had the opportunity to experience the pleasure of running a well-made lever-action carbine, then you are missing out on a real treat. Henry Repeating Arms is a company that brings out the best in this class of rimfires with quality craftsmanship, reasonable prices and the popular company policy of keeping its rifles 100 percent made in America. The Golden Boy provides a combination of smooth operation, excellent handling and spot-on accuracy, with the handsome appearance of a classic carbine.
It's uncommon to find a firearm manufacturer that is as universally well-liked, with rifles that are so highly prized by their owners, as Henry. But after shooting this, and several other Henry rifles, it’s easy to see how they garner so much customer loyalty. If I had to rank my time spent shooting the Golden Boy in .22 Mag., I would have to say it was one of my favorite range tests of the year.